Nate and Lilly are totally worth losing sleep over. Trust me.
(Not that I did. Much. 😉 )
Title: Tempted by the Soldier
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Nicolette Day
Publisher: Entangled Brazen
When one touch isn’t enough, why resist?
Road trips are supposed to be fun. Or, at least, full of hot sex. For photographer Lilly Grayson, the fifteen-hour drive to her friend’s wedding with Nate Jennings will be neither. Not that Nate isn’t sexy—the man is six-foot-three-inches of mouth-watering Marine. But Lilly’s been there, done that…and he walked away. Now it’s time for a little payback. The kind that’ll make a man desperate for a taste of what he can’t have.
And Nate wants a taste—so badly that he can barely keep his hands on the wheel. But the scars and ghosts of his last tour still haunt him. He can’t give into temptation, not this time. Lilly deserves a whole man—one who can love her the way she deserves to be loved, even if she doesn’t believe it can happen. And that can’t be Nate. Not when he’s leaving again in two weeks, and this time, he’s not sure he’ll return…
This novel could have driven me bonkers. Nate Jennings has major, major issues–and is absolutely letting them run his life. They’re causing him to make career choices as well as personal decisions. They’re altering his perception of himself to the point that he believes he will eventually ruin everything–and everyone–he touches. They’re making him cause the huge climactic moment of the novel (the plot rollercoaster kind, NOT the one your dirty mind went to. Though, come to think of it, he’s got a major role in causing that kind too. It is a Brazen novel, after all. ;)) and when a character’s refusal to see things–especially themselves–as they are causes the “big understanding” of the book, it can all go so, so wrong.
But it doesn’t here. Nicolette Day pulls it off. She has Nate pull it off. And it’s believable, and romantic, and…oh, so good.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I should probably start at the beginning….
The first third or so of this novel is fantastic. Nate and Lilly’s road trip is all you could want, and more. There’s snarky one-liners and amusing banter, and–at least on Lilly’s part–some darn funny attempts to get payback on the jerk who left her a year ago after the most amazing night of their lives. (I’m not usually a fan of bathroom graffiti, but well played here, Lilly, well played.) There’s a definite sense of nature and fate working against our protagonists, with laugh-out-loud results. The first part of the novel is five stars all the way.
“Well, look who finally decided to show up.” Lilly stood, smoothing her dress over her thighs. “Sergeant Unreliable is alive and kicking, after all. And here I was hoping you’d fallen down a well or something.”
“You know, Lil, when I think about fifteen hours of you busting my balls,” Nate said, “I gotta say, the well sounds tempting.”
Lilly took a deep breath and plastered on a fake smile.
“You can rest easy, Nate. I have absolutely no interest in your balls. Just your truck.”
Ignoring the dangerous glint in his eyes, she turned and bent over at the waist to grab her suitcase, knowing exactly what he would see. She felt immensely gratified when she heard the choked sound behind her. Her lips twitched with a satisfied smile as she slowly stood, deliberately giving him a good look at the body he’d never have the pleasure of touching again. When she turned around, luggage in hand, his eyes blazed, still lingering on the hem of her dress.
“Enjoying the view?” She raised a brow.
He lifted his gaze unapologetically, and anger lined the hard edge of his clenched jaw. “The view is a little hard to miss in that dress, Princess. I wasn’t aware Kleenex had come out with a women’s fashion line.”
Lilly inhaled, silently counted to ten, and gave him a tight-lipped smile. “As much as I’ve missed your uncanny talent to insult me, I’d really like to get on the road, if it’s all the same to you. The sooner we get started, the sooner we can part ways and never see each other again.”
“For once we can actually agree on something,” he muttered.
She turned her back on him before she did something extreme. Like pour her Frappuccino over his head. He followed, reaching out to grab the handle of her suitcase.
She tightened her grip, refusing to let go.
“Come on, Lil.” He held the door open for her as she struggled through to the parking lot, hands full. “I’m not a total dick. Let me take your bag.”
“First of all, yes, you are.” She stopped and turned to face him. “And second, the only way you’re getting my bag is if I shove it up—”
His hard chest collided with hers and her coffee cup exploded between them. She screamed and jumped back, allowing him to take the brunt of the Frappuccino eruption.
He looked up, eyes wide, and held his dripping hands out to his sides. “What the hell?”
“Seriously?” She shook her fingers, splattering him with more of the sticky-sweet excuse for coffee, and scowled at him. “Weren’t you in the army? Didn’t they teach you grunts to look forward when walking?”
Tension stiffened his big frame and a muscle in his jaw ticked. “Marines.”
“Yeah, well the Marines must have skipped the watching where- you-walk chapter along with the lesson on punctuality. Or maybe you just bailed that day. You seem to be good at that.”
Anger flashed in his eyes like a storm warning. He took a slow step forward, and without thinking, she took a step back on the asphalt and into the rain, cringing when her heels landed in a puddle. Damn it. Less than ten minutes in his presence and already he had her tripping all over herself.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. She was supposed to be teaching him a lesson. She needed to take control of this situation, and fast.
A few more steps and her back hit the side of a truck.
His, thankfully. He stopped in front of her and stripped off his coffee-soaked shirt, tossing it in the bed of the truck without taking his eyes off her. She froze, the sight of his chiseled bare chest enough to make her brain short-circuit.
What in God’s name was he doing, stripping in a parking lot? If Paige could see this, her panties would be melting all the way over on Fifth Avenue.
“W-what are you doing?” Who the hell did he think he was? Matthew McConaughey?
Nate braced his hands on the truck roof above her and leaned in, his jaw tight, his gaze intense. “Setting some ground rules.”
Heart racing, she tilted her head back to look up at the man towering over her, blinking away the light rain falling from the sky. This close, she could see every speck of gray in his cobalt eyes. His gaze darted down to her mouth and heat sparked low in her belly, igniting the need to give in to the white-hot connection burning between them. She didn’t know what she wanted more. To douse that connection with ice water and extinguish it forever, or keep it burning bright just to torture him for pretending it didn’t exist.
Being this close to him felt too familiar. Too intimate. Too…good. She swallowed, knowing she should tell him to back the hell off, but she couldn’t seem to find her voice through the tangle of emotions clogging her throat.
Her gaze dropped to the dog tags dangling on his chest and a flash of her gripping the chain as he dragged her in for a hot, wet kiss flashed across her mind. She wriggled against the truck, wanting, no, needing to put some space between them. His heat, his fresh-from-the-shower masculine scent, it was all over her, making her stomach tighten with want.
Wait…want? No. She did not want Nate Jennings.
What she wanted was to give him a swift kick in the family jewels to get him to back the hell off.
“Does this rule-setting require you to be shirtless?” she said in an unsteady voice.
“What’s the matter, Princess?” Nate smirked. “Afraid you can’t control yourself around me?”
“If you’re referring to my burning desire to physically harm you, then yes. That is something I’m concerned about.”
His gaze drifted over her dress, which was slowly but surely going nearly transparent from the rain. “First rule. No more smart-ass commentary. I was late. I apologize. I want to get to Vermont with my sanity intact. That’s not going to happen if I have to listen to you run your mouth for fifteen hours.”
She shrugged. “I make no promises.”
His nostrils flared and she could hear his hands ball into fists against the truck. “Fine. But know that every time that pretty little mouth pisses me off, I’m going to retaliate.”
She raised a brow. “I might actually feel threatened if I thought you’d keep your word,” she said. “But I think we both know how good you are at that.”
“I think I might be motivated enough to follow through this time.”
“Oh yeah? And what exactly do you plan to do? Spank me?”
His smirk curled. “As tempting as that sounds…” He leaned in close enough to share the air touching her lips.
“I’ll do the one thing I know terrifies you the most.”
She lifted her chin a fraction, refusing to be intimidated.
“And what is that?”
“I’ll kiss you.”
See what I mean? Sheer awesomeness.
Then they arrive at Nate’s hometown, where he hasn’t been in ten years, and things shift into a more serious mode. The rest of the novel is just as good, don’t get me wrong, but you see less of the humorous banter and more of the angst that Nate has been carrying around since the accident that originally sent him stateside. You see the broken Nate close up, and that’s the Nate that’s pushing everyone away. First, though, we–through Lilly’s influence–manage to see inside to the real Nate, the one he hasn’t let anyone see, perhaps ever.
It’s those glimpses that will get us through the dark places in this novel, because if we hadn’t seen them, I might have been tempted to toss Nate Jennings across the room out of sheer frustration with him. When he decides to bring out the “It doesn’t matter if I do care about her–I’m no good for her” side of him, he practically had me shouting at my ereader. His issues were clearly major and deep, and I didn’t see how Day could have him fix them before the novel’s end.
But she does, thank goodness. Not a magic moment-of-clarity-boom!-it’s-all-better kind of fix, but the kind that Nate figures out for himself and pulls off in a believable way. His doing so led us to a fantastic ending that was definitely worth the sleep I lost because I was incapable of putting it down.
So. Good. Pick this one up; you won’t be sorry.
(As an aside, how did I not know that Nicolette Day was Tara Fuller? I loved her two YA books–Inbetween and Blurred when I binge-read them on vacation this summer, and am counting the days until Descent–book three–comes out. In JUNE. At least I have Jace and Hayden’s story to tide me over; though it’s only a novella, and obviously won’t keep me busy that long…)
Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A rating
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
ABOUT NICOLLETE DAY
A mom by day and a romance writer by night, Nicolette Day harbors a weakness for black and white mochas and books that steam up her Kindle screen. She grew up in a one stoplight town where she once upon a time she only dreamed of becoming a writer. Now she lives in a slightly larger town in North Carolina where they have at least three stoplights. If you love young adult romance, check out Nicolette’s alter ego, TaraFuller!